Best known for the spacesuits they create to protect astronauts, a new product developed by ILC in Frederica may help protect people on the ground. The Resilient Tunnel Plug is designed to block tunnels during terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
“The RTP is a security device developed in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Office, contractors Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and ILC Dover,” said David Cadogen, Director of Engineering and Product Development at ILC Dover. “The RTP operates like an automotive airbag in the sense that it resides in its packed state in the tunnel and is inflated when needed.” The plug is over 16 feet in diameter and 32-feet long, holding up to 38,000 gallons of water that is pressurized with air to 17.3 psi, the equivalent of half a car tire. The plug packs into a fairly small container which is what makes it so attractive for plugging tunnels.
According to Mr. Cadogan, the tunnel plug was actually developed by the federal government who contracted with the company to create the prototype based on the company’s reputation, experience and capabilities.
“The plugs prevent water from flowing from a damage site in an underwater tunnel into the rest of a transit system,” Mr. Cadogen explained. “If a natural disaster like an earthquake or an act of terrorism were to occur, the plug would give people time to evacuate the system and save the subway system billions in reduced damage and impact on commerce in the area.” Mr. Cadogen said that municipalities with tunnel systems have expressed an interest in the product but because the RTP is a security device they cannot discuss where they may be installed.
ILC Dover developed a product in the late 1980s called Stream Saver that used an inflatable plug to be discharged into tunnels in the event of an accidental discharge from chemical plants or other companies that could pollute streams. ILC Dover has also received requests to use the plug in dams, mining tunnels and for other tunneling industries throughout the world.
“There are several products we are creating that are related to the RTP,” Mr. Cadogen said. “This is the work that is important to ILC as a business and to Delaware in general. We probably won’t install too many RTPs because they are a special-use item and there are many more needs for flood protection above the ground in order to keep water out of buildings, homes etc. In 2013, ILC met with NYCT to discuss RTP, but they wanted to stop water at the surface, so we developed products and had the first Flex-Gate installed within six months of being on contract.”
Mr. Cadogen said that the RTP has a long heritage of creating products designed for protection. Since the 1960s, the company has provided spacesuits and space habitats as well as Mars impact bags. The company began in 1947, providing engineering solutions to resolve complex customer problems. The company also creates bulk packaging and processing systems for food, chemical and personal care as well as powder containment and processing systems for pharmaceutical markets. The company expects that as much as 10 percent of their revenue in 2018 will come from its full line of flood mitigation products.
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